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The Many Dimensions of Communication: New Literacies for the Twenty-First Century

Resource Person: Kirk Fuoss, Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Performance and Communication Arts

STL: What prompted the creation of this paper? What need does it address?
KF: The “critical literacies” proposal represents an attempt to deepen and extend St. Lawrence’s longstanding commitment to teaching communication skills by refocusing our teaching approach around four interrelated pillars: saturation, duration, integration and ethics:

*Saturation implies a commitment to communication across the curriculum.  
*Duration implies a commitment to communication across the four years. 
*Integration implies a commitment to improving students’ abilities to communicate across a variety of modes, media and channels (e.g., oral, written, visual, live, mediated, digital)—in other words, a variety of literacies.
*Ethics implies a commitment to improving students’ abilities to communicate with integrity both within and across a wide variety of communities, constituencies, and cultures. 

STL: Why is it important?
KF: Being an effective and ethical communicator is vital regardless of what majors students pursue here, or what careers they pursue after they leave. 

STL: Why are faculty excited about it?
KF: Most St. Lawrence faculty members are already acutely aware of the vital role communication practices play within their respective disciplines.  Most are also already aware of how vitally important it is that faculty, students and alumni be able to communicate effectively both within and across disciplinary and professional boundaries.  Enhancing students’ ability to function as effective producers and discriminating consumers of communication is central to our mission as a liberal arts institution. 

STL: How will it be implemented?
KF: We are transforming the faculty initiative into a rhetoric and communication program, which we plan to launch in the fall of 2007.   The program’s work will take place on a variety of fronts simultaneously, including faculty development, the training of peer mentors, facilities planning and renovation, and curricular reform. 

Some components of the program have already been implemented (see sidebar).  These include developing a course specifically designed to train peer mentors in diverse forms of inquiry and expression, as well as offering a January faculty development institute aimed at fostering an integrated approach to the teaching of inquiry and the skills associated with oral, written and visual rhetoric. 

To read the Academic Strategic Planning Paper on rhetoric and critical literacies, visit and click on Critical Literacies.

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